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UN Asked to Create All-Serb Havens

August 25, 1999

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ With NATO-led peacekeepers unable to stop reprisal attacks, Serb leaders asked the United Nations on Wednesday to create all-Serb havens within Kosovo, a proposal immediately rejected by ethnic Albanians.

In the deeply divided town of Orahovac, appeals from the United States and others failed to persuade ethnic Albanians to abandon their makeshift roadblocks and allow Russian peacekeepers to enter the town.

Serb members of the joint Serb-ethnic Albanian council _ organized to advise the United Nations on governing Kosovo _ proposed setting up five all-Serb areas within the province, citing continued threats to their security by ethnic Albanians.

The areas would be protected by international peacekeepers and governed by Serbs, along with international representatives.

``We offered a new proposal of cantonization, based on the presence of the international community in Kosovo,″ Momcilo Trajkovic, a Serb representative, told reporters after the meeting. ``Then we asked that this cantonization last five years, because our goal is ... (to) stop this people’s tragedy and create conditions for the Serbs to come back.″

Ethnic Albanians on the council immediately rejected the proposal. All ethnic Albanian political groups have consistently opposed any move toward partitioning the province along ethnic lines. Before NATO’s 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia this spring, the province of Kosovo was 90 percent ethnic Albanian.

``It’s an issue that is unacceptable for (Albanians),″ said Hasim Thaci, who heads the government of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. ``We’re not discussing it anymore.″

Bernard Kouchner, head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, has been against the idea of creating permanent Serb area.

But he noted Wednesday that the Serb proposal was linked to security concerns _ a subtle warning to Albanians that such a step could be considered unless ethnic reprisal attacks cease.

``Cantonization is not a good word, as I have several times told you and it reminds us a lot of bad things,″ Kouchner said.

Most of Kosovo’s pre-war population of 200,000 Serbs have fled the province since NATO-led peacekeepers entered on June 12. The exodus followed the alliance’s 78-day bombing campaign aimed at stopping Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s brutal crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Also Wednesday, the bodies of 13 people found in a common grave earlier this week were brought to the main morgue in Gnjilane, 20 miles southeast of Pristina.

According to Svetlana Pavic, a judge from Gnjilane, three of the bodies were identified as Serbs who had gone missing before the bombing campaign. The others were to be identified on Thursday.

``We presume the other 10 are Serbs as well,″ Pavic said. She said peacekeepers serving in the NATO-led force found the bodies and informed Serbs who were searching for family members believed to have been kidnapped by ethnic Albanian rebels.

In Orahovac, 40 miles southwest of Pristina, ethnic Albanian protests against the deployment of Russian troops moved into a third day Wednesday.

One protester, Agim Hasku, said it was up to the people of Orahovac to decide whether to let the Russians into town.

``German, Dutch and Russian representatives insisted a compromise be made, but a compromise is absurd because they do not offer anything we could give to the people,″ he said. ``They are offering nothing.″

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman James B. Foley commended the Russians for their patience in the standoff.

``We believe that they are taking a very measured and professional approach to the problem,″ Foley said Wednesday. ``We are confident that at the end of the day the Russian troops will be able to fulfill their mandate.″

Using tractors, trucks, cars and buses, Albanians have been blocking the roads since Monday, when Russian troops first tried to enter the town. The Albanians claim that Russian paramilitaries collaborated with Serb forces and committed atrocities in Orahovac during NATO’s bombing campaign.

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